The history continues, with a reminder of context: in November 2000, you could get on an airplane without taking off your shoes first, and no one put their hands on your body; you could travel between Canada and the US without a passport; there was no Patriot Act passed by a Congress that didn’t read it, and no Homeland Security. No “War on Terror” either. Iraq was still an intact country, as was Syria.
SHE IS STILL BURNING
An Expanding Reader To Encourage Life Lovers
11 November 2000
What were the responses to the first installment? They ranged from the funny to the profound, but they all gave me what Jeannette Muzima refers to as “a jolt of hope.” Below is a sampling:
Suzanne Cox: “I feel very lucky to be getting it in today’s world of market, piggies go to market. I cannot believe it is free.” (This was in response to her suggesting that I should at least charge $5, and my replying IT HAS TO BE FREE. Maybe I am being stubbornly impractical with this project, but the greenback god from hell rules our collective life to a degree that was unimaginable when I was growing up—and I purely hate calculating my every move in terms of money. She Is Still Burning will remain what it was conceived to be: a gift, to myself as much as to anyone else.)
Jeannette Muzima: “Thank you for creating this. I look forward to reading, contributing, laughing, raging, and re-igniting.”
Rawi Hage: “I know many shes with eternal fires in them.”
Madelaine Marin: “Et BRAVO! pour le lancement de SHE IS STILL BURNING! FEU dont le besoin se fait si grandement sentir tant la chaleur est absente de nos isolements respectifs.” (rough translation: And bravo! for the making of SHE IS STILL BURNING—a fire we feel need of to the degree that warmth is missing from our respective solitudes.)
My thanks to all who responded. “Every woman deserves her own hallelujah chorus,” says Clarissa Pinkola Estès—and so does She Is Still Burning.
This installment appears three weeks after the first one, which feels to me like a pretty good rhythm. I do She Is Still Burning in between working on contracts for my editing/translation business, so the installments happen when they happen. If it’s more than a month between installments, that doesn’t mean the project is dead. It means I’m up against a deadline.
All this said, welcome to the continuation of She Is Still Burning!
Bon courage (keep your spirits up),
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
IN THIS INSTALLMENT
1) “Love Prints” by Jeannette Muzima (a love poem is about the world)
2) “The Castle” by Rawi Hage (a childhood memory of war)
3) “Who Really Did Write Don Quixote?” (a question for readers)
4) “Faye’s Notebook, Part I: The Most Terrifying Thing I Ever Heard” by Harriet Ellenberger (Faye is a less restrained and more playful version of myself. Excerpts from her notebook may appear regularly … or they may not.)
Like a black panther
you glided into my life
bared your teeth
and showed me a smile that
lighted up infinity.
Slowly, softly and surely
you placed your
on my body
of love and laughter.
When asked to say something about herself, Jeannette wrote: “One of my many re-incarnations in this life is jazz composer and musician. In 1978 in Boston, I founded the all-women’s jazz quintet BOUGAINVILLEA. I led the band for 18 years before returning to the San Francisco Bay Area for the second time. I adore my mother, Eva, who passed in 1995, and also found my birth mother, Gloria, who passed the same year. I was blessed with two mothers, and I acknowledge and honor them for their courage, inspiration, brilliance, humor, and love. They are shining stars.”
by Rawi Hage
“Don Quixote was pleased to mistake an inn for a castle.” –Cervantes
That summer the air was humid. Everyone was eager to leave the unbearable heat and the wartorn city. Some, the fortunate ones, had escaped to the high mountains and stayed in their summer homes. Others crossed the seas and took refuge in foreign lands. But those of us who were poor and loyal to our fate were doomed to stay and endure the war and the city.
It seemed as if Beirut, that ancient Phoenician city, had once more committed a misdeed and enraged one god or another. At the city’s gate, an army of mortals was again prepared to unleash its wrath like a jealous lover, an unjust ruler or some omnipotent being waiting to celebrate in decadence.
On that day the sun appeared again and touched all things that existed, all that is created. The streets were empty, except for the occasional passing car or desperate pedestrian and the cats feasting on a hill of uncollected garbage. On that day, the bombing started gradually, then suddenly intensified, with louder explosions.
We all ran to the hallway, and took refuge between two thick concrete walls. Rose, our next-door neighbor, sang to the Virgin Mary with enthusiasm, piety and conviction, to make the lords of war ashamed and humble. My mother held her finger with the left hand, and frantically murmured words that no one had ever heard before. George, our upstairs neighbor, gave orders—for he, a protector and an ancient warrior, in the absence of men and the presence of women, seemed to be the most qualified and knowledgeable in matters of safety and battle. My brothers and the neighbors’ kids, all confined to the narrow passage, indifferent, stoic and fearless, played a game of cards.
A child notorious for defiance, I ran away to the window, sat on the floor and looked up through the iron bars, across the roof, into the vast blue sky. I, a self-proclaimed knight errant, vowed that no sounds of falling bombs, no occupying armies, no insignificant military chants, nor pitiful safety rules would ever keep me from reaching out to those beautiful lands covered in meadows and castles.
note: Rawi Hage is a photographer and multi-media artist living in Montreal, Quebec. “The Castle” was his debut as a writer. A longer story, “The Call,” appeared in Mizna, vol. 2, issue 1. His work will appear in an exhibition by Arab-Canadian artists, “Ces pays qui m’habitent/Lands That Live in Me,” at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, opening October 2001.
Who Really Did Write Don Quixote?
After accepting “The Castle,” I found an intriguing stanza by the Spanish poet Gloria Fuertes. She begins the short poem “Now” by saying that silkworms turned into butterflies “because it was May / and insects are, in their way, magicians.” She continues:
Then I’ll tell you
how Eloise Muro,
the fourth mistress of Cervantes,
wrote ‘Don Quijote.’
Because though tiny, I know many things,
and my body is an endless eye
through which, unfortunately, I see everything.
(translation by Philip Levine in The Other Voice: Twentieth-Century Women’s Poetry in Translation, eds. Joanna Bankier, Carol Cosman, Doris Earnshaw, Joan Keefe, Deirdre Lashgari, Kathleen Weaver, published in 1976 by W.W. Norton, New York)
My question to readers: Do you know anything about this? Is she right?
FAYE’S NOTEBOOK, PART 1: THE MOST TERRIFYING THING I EVER HEARD
(text by Harriet Ellenberger)
Dear Angel of Perfect Understanding,
If it isn’t one human group resorting to death threats and terror tactics, it’s another. Governments use terror, and they call it war or diplomacy or restoration of civil order. Stateless groups use terror, and they call it liberation or God’s will or standing up for their rights. The “nectech empire” (Mary Daly’s words, short for “necrophilic technocrats”) uses terror, and they call it science or the information revolution or the biotech revolution or the development of artificial intelligence. Corporate capitalism uses terror, and they call it economic development or the free market or standard business practice (business is war, remember?). Organized crime doesn’t bother to call terror by another name; they just base their operations on it.
But the real stuff of my current nightmares is anti-matter (the mirror image of matter, its electrons charged positively and its protons charged negatively). The moment that anti-matter meets matter, it explodes—no trigger device needed. One unit of anti-matter produces an explosion a million times greater than does an equivalent unit of the uranium used in atomic bombs. Enough anti-matter to blow apart the earth would fit in a corner of my backpack.
Up until ______ (what year? will we ever know?), anti-matter existed only in black holes in space, and in the imagination of the writers for “Startrek” (the starship Enterprise is propelled faster than the speed of light by a controlled anti-matter explosion in its warp core). But according to a PBS television documentary on space-travel research, broadcast in October 1999, American researchers are now creating anti-matter in a university lab.
For use as a space-craft fuel? That’s what the scientists interviewed said. But from the beginnings of the Soviet and U.S. space programs, what was being developed for space travel was also being developed for surveillance and weaponry. And we can be sure of four additional things which the friendly and mild-mannered men and women interviewed did not mention: 1) what is released for public consumption is old technology presented out of context (i.e., the cutting-edge research must be even more alarming); 2) the people determining the uses of this research are psychically numb to the consequences of their decisions; 3) the research, in any case, will not remain in their hands alone, considering how often secrets are stolen and how frequently the Pentagon’s computers are hacked into; and 4) accidents happen.
Dearest and most understanding of all angels, I have a personal problem with all this. Being terrorized from all sides makes one tired. Empathizing with everyone else who is being terrorized from all sides makes one ill. And speaking for myself alone, it’s enough already. That’s why I have decided to dump on you the job of worrying about anti-matter in laboratories, as well as all the other human-created events and situations that have been robbing my sleep.
I know this isn’t fair, Angel. But nothing on this planet seems to be what we might call fair. Plus, I’m desperate.
Love & hugs (oh, and thanks),